AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Quinn Ewers passed for 225 yards and two touchdowns in his quarterback debut for Texas and the Longhorns rolled over Louisiana-Monroe 52-10 on Saturday night in the season opener for both programs.
A win against a traded opponent was still necessary for second-year coach Steve Sarkisian after the Longhorns went 5-7 in 2021. Texas next week hosts No. 1 Alabama, where Sarkisian was offensive coordinator when the Crimson Tide won the Panhellenic Championship in 2020.
Ewers was one of the top recruits in the country out of high school near Dallas, but he skipped his senior season and enrolled at Ohio State. He was buried on the Buckeyes’ depth chart and took just two snaps last season before transferring. He won the starting spot over Hudson Card, who was Texas’ starter to open the 2021 season.
Ewers said he was surprisingly calm in his first college start.
”I didn’t have any butterflies going in today. A little bit in the first play, but not even as much as I did in high school,” Ewers said. ”I liked it. I enjoyed the game.”
Ewers had a good night despite some struggles to get deep throws, and his biggest plays came on catch-and-run collections his receivers turned into big gains. His favorite target of the night was Ja’Tavion Sanders, who caught six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.
Bijan Robinson finished with 111 total yards on 13 carries and two third-quarter touchdowns on 16 yards and a 9-yard run. The third-year running back has dropped in 12 of his last 13 games.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Ewers said of the Texas offense and its many playmakers. ”Especially when things are clicking on all levels.”
ULM: The Warhawks were consistently overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage, rarely letting Chandler Rogers find standout receiver Boogie Knight. The Warhawks gained just 259 total yards, gave up eight tackles for losses and Knight managed just four catches for 26 yards.
“They were better than us in all phases and we needed some breaks here or there to keep this game close,” Louisiana-Monroe coach Terry Bowden said. “They were the best football team and they will be the best football team tomorrow.”
Texas: Sarkisian predicted there would be some misfires and growing pains from his young quarterback, and he was right. Ewers’ first pass attempt was late to a wide open receiver and was broken up. His second was a throw in coverage that was intercepted, a turnover that set up a Warhawks field goal. But Ewers rebounded nicely with seven straight completions, including his first career sack against Sanders.
”I don’t think anybody wants to throw interceptions on the second pass of their career,” Sarkisian said. ”It was a good lesson for him. He tried to force a throw.”
Sarkisian said he didn’t try to slow down the offense after the turnover.
”You can’t expect him to ride that bike and do it with training wheels. I have to let him go,” Sarkisian said.
Texas’ first points of the season came on a blocked punt less than two minutes into the game. A bull rush up the middle opened up a gap for D’Shawn Jamison, who was so close to the punter that the kick went straight to his gut. Keilan Robinson’s 12-yard scoop and score made it 7-0.
Sarkisian said he predicted a blocked kick on the opening drive.
“That’s exactly how this thing started,” he said.
FINISHING BIG PLAYS BOOKS
Jamison’s punt block was just his first big play. He had another in the third quarter when he turned an interception off a tipped pass into a 69-yard touchdown.
Sarkisian said Alabama transfer wide receiver Aggie Hall has returned to the team after being suspended following a felony misdemeanor arrest, suggesting he could play next week against his former team. But Sarkisian said another Alabama transfer, Jahleel Billingsley, is serving a six-game suspension from the NCAA for something the coach said happened during his time at Alabama. He did not provide further details.
ULM hosts Nicholls on Saturday.
Texas hosts No. 1 Alabama in what is shaping up to be the national game of the week between two future SEC rivals. The Longhorns are scheduled to leave the Big 12 in 2025.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap-top25. Subscribe to AP’s college football newsletter: https://bit.ly/3pqZVaF